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Integrated robot controls slash packaging machinery costs

01 February, 2006

Integrated robot controls slash packaging machinery costs

Most robots use proprietary control architectures, tailored to the individual robot. However, using these controllers in packaging machinery requires considerable work to synchronize them with the main machine controls.

Bu this is changing with the launch of a control system (depicted above) that can supervise up to ten robot arms as modules within the overall packaging control software.The system has ben develped by the packaging controls specialist Elau, which claims that with multiple pick-and-place robots, the new approach can cut an OEM`s engineering workload by around 25%. At the same time, the performance of the complete system can be improved - in some cases, even doubled.

And for users, it eliminates the need to learn and support a complete set of "black box" robot control hardware and software.

Machine engineering is also simplified by the fact that the program can access all process variables. The uniform programming of all functions to IEC 61131-3 standards and access to all function blocks is also said to make the programmer`s work much easier.

Furthermore, eliminating the robot controllers reduces the space required in the control cabinet and cuts hardware costs. Integrating the robot controls into the packaging program also makes it easier to plan diagnostic and fault correction functions.

At the heart of the new approach is an IEC 61131-3-compliant software library. Special function blocks configure the robot movements automatically so that the machine designer does not need any specialised robotic programming skills.

The blocks incorporate modules that convert the robot trajectory in real time from Cartesian co-ordinates into actual positions for the robot axes. They support various robot movements, including swan neck, gantry, delta (two- and three-axis), SCARA and portal types.

The function blocks also include "intelligent acceleration monitors", which monitor the acceleration on the Tool Center Point (TCP) or the centrifugal force on the product in the robot`s gripper. Precise TCP control allows rapid execution of precision movements, such as picking a product from one moving belt and placing it in a container on another.

The software is part of Elau`s PacDrive system and can access the system`s diagnostic and troubleshooting functions. As well as replacing up to ten hardware robot controllers, the software handles all of the machine`s other functions, such as I/O, infeeds, collating belts, temperature control, glue gun firing, and programmable limit switches.

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